8-Bitham Lincoln: Freddie Wong & Brandon Laatsch [Interview]

Have you seen “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” yet? Yeah, didn’t think so. You and everyone else decided instead to throw away your hard-earned dollars to watch a little ginger girl eat porridge with a bear in Pixar’s “Brave.” That is an accurate summation of the entire movie, right? Well, because of the poor choice you’ve made, 20th Century Fox has tentatively titled the direct-to-video sequel “Abraham Lincoln: Disney Princess Hunter.” Princess Merida, of course, is the first to get an axe to the skull. Fishing hook with worm makes Ariel an easy catch for sushi. Mulan, warrior princess, may be the toughest cookie to crack…a fortune cookie to crack, that is. Get it? Metaphorically, Mulan is no regular cookie; she’s a fortune cookie because she’s Chinese. She’s Chinese.

Even if you haven’t seen “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” you might have seen Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch’s original YouTube short for the movie. Hyperbole aside, “8-Bitham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is the only awesomely cool, brilliant Abraham Lincoln video you will ever need to watch for the rest of your lives (plural because it includes your future lives in the case that reincarnation isn’t just a kooky religious device).  And notice that I did say “Hyperbole aside;” it’s just that good.

So, enough with my rambling. Let’s get down to brass tacks: in a testament to the growing reach and power of online video filmmakers, 20th Century Fox commissioned Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch of Freddiew YouTube fame to do a promotional video short for the release of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” The result was “8-Bitham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” a tribute to 8-bit video games and ol’ Honest Abe kicking vampire ass released to Freddiew’s over 3.3 million subscriber fan base. Check it out:


The Interview

In an exclusive with NMR, Filmmakers Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch explain their creative process for the 8-Bitham video and share their insight on their serves being tapped by major movie studios.

Alan Van: Why do you think Fox chose you guys to film a promotional piece for “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”?

Freddie Wong & Brandon Laatsch: We think having been through the “studio system” with Jon Favreau and our “Cowboys and FreddieW” video helped a lot. Also, we think Timur is a good fit, as he’s one of the few out and out “action” directors working today, and we’re obviously huge action movie guys.

A: What do you think that decision to choose you guys says about how traditional media is viewing new media talent?

F&B: For now, we think we’re seen as a useful marketing tool – they see the audiences we and others like us have built and equate it to essentially wide-scale word of mouth potential. We think it’ll be a bit before we graduate from that, but that transition seems to be pretty common as music video and commercial directors often hop over to narrative filmmaking at some point in their careers.

A: How appealing would it be to you if a studio like Fox eventually asked you to direct a major movie, if they haven’t already?

F&B: One of the questions we get all the time is “When are you guys going to direct a feature?” This is even after we’ve finished our feature-length web series “Video Game High School.” So when people ask that, we think what they really mean is “When are you guys going to have something distributed traditionally?” It’s an interesting question because we find ourselves in a really awesome position right now – we can do what we love, we have an audience that supports us, and we have an unbelievable amount of creative control. While we love theatrical and television, we think if we did it, it would have to be in light of everything we’ve done with audiences and what we’ve done online. Otherwise, it would be a complete waste to not expand upon what we’ve already built. So basically – we’d love to direct a major movie because we love making movies, but the world of feature films nowadays is a very different world than it used to be. 

A: How did you come to decide that the video was going to play like an 8-bit video game?

F&B: When trying to come up with a concept, we always challenge ourselves to find a unique and interesting angle that justifies why we’re doing it in the first place. We’ve always been a huge fan of the old school side scrolling games like “Final Fight” and “Double Dragon.” We were talking about how great old movie tie-in games used to be – games like the SNES “Star Wars” or the Sega “Jurassic Park” games – games that kind of took the basic concept of the movie and tied in within…sort of. We thought that would be a fun angle for the video – what if some Japanese video game developer got the basics of Abraham Lincoln and made the movie tie-in game that would have happened if the movie game out in the mid 90s.

A: In comparison to your live-action videos, how would you describe the creative process of making this video?

F&B: It was much more conceptual and had a bit more pre-planning than our live action stuff – which is generally very improvisational on the set. Because there was so much animation, we had to think about overall video flow and timing much more than our live action stuff. 

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